How To Find, Recruit & Retain Dedicated NPO Board Members

Finding, recruiting, and retaining dedicated board members in the NPO world is not as straightforward as some would hope. Often a costly mistake for organizations just trying to achieve their mission. Join us in this episode of the Strategic Nonprofit Podcast. As host Trista sits down with NPO consultant Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE. Listen in as they discuss how to find, recruit and retain dedicated NPO board members that will help you achieve your mission.

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Who is responsible for finding board members?

It’s the board’s responsibility to find new board members. Although, in many NPOs, it seems to fall to the executive director, which Linda thinks is a mistake.

For example, many executive directors take it upon themselves to find new board members. However, this is sometimes really to the detriment of the organization. Because they’re stacking the board with people they know are going to agree with them for everything.

How can NPOs find new board members?

First of all, organizations need to consider “What are the needs of this board?” Do they need to grow in size? If so, they need to diversify. And when we say diversify, we don’t mean just ethnic diversity. That’s very important. Although it’s becoming more and more important, there’s also the diversity of age, gender, and even geographic diversity.

If your organization covers a regional or national, or statewide population, you need to serve that whole population. So this governance committee should be working year around it.

Next, identify who do we need on this board? What are the skills and talents that we’re looking for? For example, you would never hire a staff person by running into someone and saying, “Oh, they seem like a good person.”

Unfortunately, a lot of organizations do this to engage board members. Yet this person doesn’t know anything about the organization. You don’t know anything about them. And suddenly, you’re in this partnership where they’re a board member, and they don’t understand their role. More so, you don’t know what their skills and talents are. So it needs to be a very thoughtful process that ideally should occur year-round, not just in September, October or worst of all, December.

The importance of diverse boards and recruitment

Unfortunately, some organizations do not include community members. Yet, you really need to get community members involved because the committees are the best training ground for a good board member.

Because once a person serves on a committee, they get to know your organization better. And most importantly, you get to know them better. Do they show up at meetings? Do they accept jobs and carry through on those tasks they said they would do? Are they people who just want their name on a committee and don’t want to get very involved? They don’t attend meetings. But, if they’re not engaged on the committee, they’re certainly not going to be involved when they serve on your board.

So having solid committees that include a lot of community people is the best way to find new board members.

Why each board member should have a vested interest in the organization

First of all, it’s identifying potential board members and that can come from any of your board or even from staff members. I had clients whose staff members have suggested people for the board, but they. Get vetted first by this governance committee. And they look at, well, we have three slots open and maybe we have seven names.

So who are the best three people out of those seven that meet the criteria that we’re looking for that have the skills and talents we’re looking for? And maybe add to some diversity in the form of, as we said, ethnic gender age, geographic diversity, and. As to the governance committee that selects the top people, but then you should always meet with these people in person and interview them just as though you were interviewing a staff person to be hired and find out.

There’s no point in having a job description. If you’re not going to expect board members to live up to that expectation.

Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE

What their expectations are, what do they expect from serving on the board let them know what your expectations are? And so many times I think people kind of soft-pedal this. Like they might have a job description that they handed this potential board member. And I’ll hear them. I guess I’ve sat in on some of these meanings myself and I’ll hear things like, well, I know it says here that you have to give a certain amount of money or you have to attend a certain amount of board meetings, but don’t worry about that.

We just want you on the board and you’re pretty much telling them that you’re not going to hold them to that. And I always say, if you’re not going to hold them to anything, then take it out of your job description because. There’s no point in having a job description. If you’re not going to expect board members to live up to that expectation.

Final word: Retain members with effective board orientations

The best way to retain your newly found board members is to provide a thorough and engaging orientation that sets expectations. As a result, the chair of the board, executive director, chair of the recruitment committee, and any other relevant leadership should all be present.

You have to educate them about your organization. If there’s something going on in your organization, they really need to understand that.

Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE

Ideally, the chair of recruitment should create a presentation for board orientation that covers:

  • The mission, vision, purpose and framework of operations
  • Organizational structure
  • Voting procedures
  • Current projects
  • Overall strategic direction
  • Financial overview
  • Expectations
  • Meeting schedule

More about Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE

Linda is one of slightly more than one hundred professionals worldwide to hold the Advanced Certified Fund Raising Executive designation. In her thirty-plus years in the development field, she has managed capital campaigns; helped dozens of nonprofit organizations achieve their development goals, and has trained more than 50,000 professionals in Mexico, Canada, Egypt, Bermuda, and most of the United States.

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